Holidays are a time of laziness, slowing down and relaxing. Even though contemporary Polish law doesn’t know the meaning of judicial vacation, in practice one can see the slowing down of the functioning of the courts, which in this exceptional case is probably not causing the parties impatience and aggravation. It is good time to think about the mechanisms combating the excessive length of proceedings, so that in September the cases can be completed more quickly. Not aspiring to academic analyses, I am dividing the causes of said lengthiness into four groups: the system – resulting from the organization of the judiciary, procedural – connected with defectiveness in procedural acts, “human” – factors resulting from tactics of the parties and judiciary – associated with improper management of the process by judges. Of course, these causes are intertwined. The parties (more often one of them at a particular moment of the process) are exploiting flaws in the procedure for prolonging the proceedings and in any manner which the judge may be badly managing the process, e.g. if while waiting for an expert opinion, the judge is not conducting other activities that can be carried out at this time.
Therefore, I would like to devote the further part of my post to an act with certainly a lengthy title, namely the Act of June 17, 2004 on the complaint against breach of the party’s right to have the case considered in the preparatory proceedings carried out or supervised by a public prosecutor, and the court proceedings without undue delay (Journal of Laws Dz. U. Nr 179, item 1843, as amended, which is further on briefly referred to as “the Act”). Disregarding the penal proceedings, in civil fact-finding proceedings, the Act introduces the mechanism for the ascertainment of the lengthiness by way of examination of the party’s complaint by the court of higher instance. The complaint is submitted through the court before which the proceedings are pending. The higher court, having declared the complaint justified, declares the lengthiness, which in fact accelerates the consideration of the case (often even the submission of the complaint itself accelerates the proceedings). The complaint is subject to a court fee of PLN 100. The declaration of lengthiness constitutes a basis for the potential claiming of damages from the State Treasury on account of said lengthiness. Already in this decision the party affected by lengthiness can obtain indemnity amounting to PLN 2000 – PLN 20000.
How to convince the higher court that said lengthiness has occurred in our case? The statutory guidelines talk about evaluation of timeliness and correctness of the court’s actions. They order consideration of the nature of the case, its complexity and the parties’ behavior, as well as the importance of the case for the party. Looking at the judicial decisions, it seems that the last criterion is rarely taken into account. The courts consistently maintain that the mere fact of long lasting proceedings does not equal their lengthiness. It has not been clearly stated what duration of the proceedings indicates lengthiness. Only the Supreme Administrative Court, in the proceedings before which only exceptionally the civil procedure is applied by way of reference, quite consistently [(e.g. decision of October 6, 2011 in the matter I OPP 71/11 (LEX nr 964670)] provides a 12-month period, which has been derived from the statutory period required between the submission of another complaint against lengthiness in the same proceedings and the adjudication of the previous complaint.
The practice shows that the complaints against the lengthiness are reviewed within the statutory 12-month period. The complaint can be filed at any stage of the proceedings prior to its final termination, although in the opinion of the Supreme Court (from the decision of January 6, 2006, III SPP 156/05, OSNP 2006, no. 23-24, item 374) the termination of the proceedings is followed by the discontinuance of the proceedings instituted by way of the complaint, which is controversial insofar as even though the complaint has allegedly reached its purpose, it deprives a party of the possibility to obtain indemnity. In practice, there are many situations causing different opinions regarding the lengthiness of proceedings, e.g. a change of judge and the time it needs to set the date of the next hearing, interval between the hearings, mistakes of court secretarial offices etc. Wishing all visitors of our website a great vacation, I also hope that you will not have to commence court proceedings after the vacation with a complaint against their lengthiness.